By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, Belarus Country Specialist, Amnesty International USA
The legal term may be clunky – “enforced disappearance” – but the human story is simple: People literally disappear, from their loved ones and their community, when state officials (or someone acting with state consent) grab them from the street or from their homes and then deny it, or refuse to say where they are. It is a crime under international law.
September 16 marked the 16 anniversary of enforced disappearance of prominent Belarusian opposition politician Viktar Hanchar and his business associate Anatol Krasouski. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
© AFP PHOTO/ JOSE Cabezas
By Josefina Salomón, News Writer at Amnesty International in Mexico @josefinasalomon
It was the most difficult day of her life.
On the morning of 5 September 2010, Mirna Solórzano stood in front of a cargo plane in San Salvador’s airport, watching as soldiers unloaded a coffin. They said it contained the remains of her daughter, Glenda.
The 23 year old had been murdered alongside another 71 men and women in the Mexican town of San Fernando, in Tamaulipas, near the border with Texas, a few weeks earlier on 22 August.
Most were attempting to cross Mexico hoping to reach the USA and find jobs that would help them support their relatives back home. But the journey is known to be one of the most dangerous in the world, with those traveling routinely facing abductions, torture and death. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Gopika Bashi, @gopikabashi, Women’s Rights Researcher, Amnesty International India
On 24 August, Amnesty International India launched a petition regarding two Dalit sisters who had been ordered to be raped and paraded naked by a khap panchayat – an unelected village council – in Baghpat, Uttar Pradesh in northern India, as ‘punishment’ because their brother had eloped with a married woman from a dominant caste.
Amnesty offices around the world circulated similar petitions, so that our supporters globally would have an opportunity to take action. Over 500,000 people have so far signed these petitions.
Some media organizations have subsequently released reports which have questioned the petition. Some have said that members of the gram panchayat – the elected village council – and members of the dominant caste have denied the allegations. Others have claimed that Amnesty did not investigate the case.
Unfortunately, these reports have taken the attention away from the situation of the sisters themselves, who along with their family still fear for their safety. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images
In Turkey, the crackdown on independent journalism continues. Mehmet Baransu remains in jail, apparently a victim of the government’s crackdown on the Gulen Movement. Other journalists in Turkey have been charged under Turkey’s dangerously vague anti-terror statutes. Meanwhile, a pattern of media outlets sacking voices deemed critical of the government continues, with the newspaper, Milliyet, firing seven journalists this past month. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Gauri van Gulik, Deputy Europe Director at Amnesty International
A solemn moment of silence. The world over, this is the traditional response when lives are cut short by tragedy.
It has also been a common response to tragedies in Europe and off its shores which have ended the lives of thousands of refugees and migrants. Not killed by bombs in Syria, but killed while making terrifying journeys in search of safety and better lives in Europe.
But the scale and rapid succession of these tragedies calls for breaking the silence.
In the space of a week, along with people across the world, I recoiled in horror as four new tragedies added to a growing list of events that have already brought a record number of refugees and migrants to untimely deaths this year. According to UNHCR, 2,500 have already perished en route to Europe since 1 January 2015. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
A stairway is seen still standing 10 years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed the house on August 28, 2015 in Waveland, Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
In marking the 10 years since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina reached the Gulf shores, it is the actions of government authorities since the storm that have been nearly as catastrophic for residents of the Gulf Coast. As highlighted by the ongoing work of the local communities through #GulfSouthRising, the issues documented in Amnesty International’s 2005 report, Un-Natural Disaster: Human rights in the Gulf Coast still profoundly impact Gulf Coast residents’ right to return. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik
On August 22, Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenka issued an order “based on the principle of humanism” to release six political prisoners, including Mikalai Statkevich and Yury Rubtsov, recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.
Mikalai Statkevich was one of six opposition presidential candidates who were imprisoned in connection with a largely peaceful demonstration that took place on December 19, 2010. Tens of thousands of Belarusians gathered in central Minsk to protest against unfair elections. The demonstration was mostly peaceful, but when a violent incident broke out at the doors of Government House, riot police moved in to disperse the crowds. Over 700 people were detained, the overwhelming majority of whom had been peaceful participants and bystanders. Most of the detained were charged with administrative offences and sentenced to 10 to 15 days in prison. Many who were sentenced for participating in the demonstrations were released after they agreed to sign a confession for organizing or taking part in “mass disorder.” Mikalai was sentenced to six years. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Every year, thousands of men, women and children go missing in dozens of countries around the world. In 2012, Amnesty International documented such cases in 31 countries. It’s a crime, all right, but these are not kidnappings for ransom or other criminal motives. These people were taken away by their own governments or agents acting for the government. The government then denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. Their relatives live in a torment of uncertainty – not knowing whether their loved ones are alive, being tortured or even dead. The missing have joined the ranks of the “disappeared.” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
By Michaela Miragliotta and Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario
A flock of birds is silhouetted against a geometric jigsaw sky of triangles in varying shades of turquoise in the mural now welcoming students, teachers, and visitors at the Pan American International High School (Pan Am) in Elmhurst, Queens, New York City. The birds burst forth from behind thick bars and soar across the expansive wall to reach the Statue of Liberty, which is illuminated by a brilliant sun. The words “Justice,” “Freedom,” “Equality” boldly line the top of the mural and encourage those who see it to reflect on those ideas as they relate to immigration, according to Mirian, one of the students who worked on the mural. The new addition to the school is rich both in design and content, and the process behind its creation even further adds to its significance for the students and community.
The core group of eight students who created the mural were in an art class that was part of a special program that worked with Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), a non-profit organization that teaches young people about human rights through art. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST
Chelsea Manning is serving a 35-year prison sentence for leaking classified US government documents to the website WikiLeaks. From her prison cell in Kansas, Chelsea tells us why speaking out against injustice can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Join Amnesty International and tell President Barack Obama to #FreeManning NOW!
Why did you decide to leak documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?
These documents were important because they relate to two connected counter-insurgency conflicts in real-time from the ground. Humanity has never had this complete and detailed a record of what modern warfare actually looks like. Once you realize that the co-ordinates represent a real place where people live; that the dates happened in our recent history; that the numbers are actually human lives – with all the love, hope, dreams, hatred, fear, and nightmares that come with them – then it’s difficult to ever forget how important these documents are. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST